A report has found that border officials at Birmingham Airport could have been carrying out illegal bag searches, without the passengers' knowledge.
It said: "Despite the fact that the current Border Force enforcement handbook guidance prohibited this activity, staff confirmed they were carrying out covert baggage searches."
A Border Force spokesman said:
Searching baggage, including when the owner is not present, is a legal and proportionate response to this issue. Any such searches must be authorised by a senior officer.
We have already taken action on the recommendations the Chief Inspector made in his report.
– John Vine, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration
I found there was no central record to show occasions where covert baggage searches were carried out, but no seizures were made.
The absence of these records meant that no assurance could be provided to demonstrate that this power was being used in a lawful, proportionate and controlled manner.
Illegal luggage searches could have been conducted by border officials at one of Britain's busiest airports, without the passengers' knowledge.
Over 1,000 pieces of luggage were seized at Birmingham Airport in the year to September.
However, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration John Vine said there was no record of the instances in which these searches did not result in a successful seizure.
Because of this, there is no way of knowing the total number of searches conducted in the period, and whether border staff were breaching passengers' rights.